How This 37-Year-Old’s Food Blog Earns 6 Figures Per Year from Social Media and SEO
When Julianne Bayer started her blog, Beyond Frosting, back in 2012, she couldn’t have imagined the rollercoaster adventure it would turn out to be.
She started her site with plans to turn it into a business, and she certainly achieved that goal. Along the way she wrote a bestselling cookbook, appeared on QVC, and had recipes go viral on social media.
Just when things were going great, she was hit with an algorithm update and lost 60% of her traffic overnight. But rather than throw in the towel, she rolled up her sleeves and started working to build up her site again.
Today she spends minimal time on her blog and outsources whatever she can so she can be there for her family. And although she hasn’t fully recovered from the update, she’s still earning 6 figures a year.
Keep reading to find out:
- How she got her book deal
- Why she created her website
- What types of content she posted initially
- Where her income comes from
- How much traffic she’s getting
- Her thoughts on SEO
- What happened after the algorithm update
- How she gets traffic from social media
- How she approaches keyword research and link building
- Her content creation process
- How she grows her email list
- Her go-to tools
- Her biggest challenge
- Her greatest accomplishment
- Her main mistake
- Her advice for other entrepreneurs
Meet Julianne Bayer
My name is Julianne, and I blog at Beyond Frosting, which I started in 2012.
Initially, I started blogging because I was really getting back into baking after taking some cake decorating classes. I’ve always loved to bake, and learning to decorate really inspired me to explore more.
I worked full-time in the apparel industry for the first 7 years of blogging. During that time, I wrote a cookbook, No-Bake Treats, which hit the Amazon bestsellers’ list, and it brought me to QVC to go live in the Kitchen with David, where my book sold out in a matter of minutes.
In 2019, I left my corporate job to pursue blogging full-time. At that time, I was also 3 months pregnant with my first child. He was born in early 2020, and I gave birth to my second son in early 2023.
I love being a mom and have recently discovered a passion for getting my kids in the kitchen with me.
I live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband and two boys. We love to snowboard, and my husband and I love to travel to different mountains to explore.
How the Book Deal Came About
I was approached by my publisher, Page Street, in 2015 about writing a cookbook. I was obviously very excited about it, but was unsure how I’d manage writing a book, working full-time, and still trying to blog.
During the process, I was still blogging a little bit on the side, but I had to take a huge step back in order to work on the book. They initially wanted all 80 recipes in 4 months, but I pushed back on the timeline.
I developed, wrote, and shot the entire book myself, 75 new recipes and 5 existing ones from my website. It was a pretty crazy process.
Before the book was launched, I got news that it was going to be on QVC, which was SO exciting. However, I had also relocated from California to Oregon in mid-April and two weeks after I started I had to fly to Pennsylvania to do a training to go on live (they basically have to make sure you can be a good fit for live TV). Around the time my book came out, I flew back to the set and was there for a quick 24-hour trip.
During my interview for my job, I had not mentioned anything about my cookbook or my blog, so it was a pretty crazy experience to then have to share all of that news and ask for time off to be on TV right after starting a new job.
It was awesome, though. They were very supportive and I hosted a tasting of recipes from the book when I got back.
Why She Created Her Website
At the time I started blogging, it felt like there were already so many successful bloggers, but also bloggers were starting to earn money and treating it like a business, but it is nothing like it is today. The ad networks we know today did not exist yet.
While I really enjoyed baking again, I also knew that blogging could be a business. I had always hoped that one day when I had kids, I could be home with them while they were young. I thought that blogging might provide an opportunity to do just that, but I had no idea the road it would lead me down.
In the early days of blogging, the goal was to be different and unique in recipe creation, and I would post recipes like “Circus Animal Cookie Dough Truffles” or “Bourbon Bacon S’mores Cookies.”
Then when SEO came into the picture, the whole content strategy shifted to posting more basic, searchable recipes. There was a time when I thought to myself, “Why would I post a chocolate chip cookie recipe when everyone else has one?” It’s crazy.
How Much She’s Earning
My primary income stream is advertising on my website, while a small portion is made from affiliate income and brand partnerships.
The blog brings in six figures per year, with a good percentage of income in Q4.
Year-to-date, I’m up 60% in revenue over last year and I’m experiencing 20% growth in traffic each month over the last 9 months.
As for the breakdown, 84% is ad revenue, 14% from brand partnerships and 1% from affiliate sales.
Traffic sits between 600k to over a million pageviews per month, depending on the time of year.
As for how much time I spend on my blog, the last few months I’ve worked less than 10 hours a week since I had a newborn and a toddler. But as my baby has gotten older, I’ve been able to get more evening hours in after the kids go to bed.
I basically batch-produce my content during the times when I have family come to visit and can help with the kids. I also do quite a bit of baking with my toddler, and this is usually when I work on recipe development, although he’s pretty much done with me after the first recipe.
Her Thoughts on SEO
When I started focusing on SEO, many of my top posts were not optimized but were ranking for some very high search volume keywords.
At first, I was listening to a lot of podcasts from The Theory of Content about how to maximize opportunities that users are already coming to you for.
I started adding H2s into my posts and trying to answer the FAQs that appeared in Google. I would publish multiple recipes for sugar cookies, for example, targeting different keywords.
Traffic was on a huge growth trajectory.
Then, a week after leaving my corporate job in 2019, I got hit by a Google update and my blog lost about 60% of organic traffic overnight. I lost all of those top positions for things like vanilla frosting, whipped cream, sugar cookies, and chocolate cake.
In January of 2020, I hired my SEO team, Swift Horse Marketing, and at that time I also finally pulled the dates from my URLs. We focused on overall site health and immediately went to work on optimizing some of those top posts that fell.
Google traffic was rough, but because everything changed due to the pandemic, and people were still home all year, I ended up only using 22% of Google traffic year-over-year.
I have never fully recovered from that update, and these days organic search makes up only 20% of my overall traffic.
Google has changed so much since then, and the way they deliver search results is getting more challenging to get content seen.
This year, we’ve spent the majority of our time republishing old content, which has brought life back into older posts.
SEO is very important, but it isn’t everything, and sometimes I think people put too much weight on that. More and more, I feel like writing for the actual reader is important.
There was never a time in which I wrote more just to have longer posts and filler content. But I find myself editing down more and more to really just deliver what the user needs.
My readers do appreciate the level of detail I provide, especially when it comes to more complicated desserts. It’s a tough balance. This has worked in our favor in the recent Helpful Content Update. I saw some improvements, but most importantly, I didn’t lose any larger rankings.
Social media is my number one traffic source, with Pinterest being number one and Facebook being number two.
In July of 2021, I hired a Pinterest service to manage my account. I was doing the bare minimum to stay afloat. They create 50 new pins for me a month, schedule out all new content, and we’re still using Tailwind. Old pins still have traction on Pinterest as well as old video pins.
Facebookwise, the big difference for me also comes back to reels. I see a huge uptick in clicks when I am consistent about posting.
My process is a bit of a mix.
My SEO team sometimes provides a lot of ideas for keyword opportunities. Creating content solely based on keywords got old very quickly, made things very mundane, and can put me in a creative funk.
So I also make recipes that inspire me or are just plain fun to do. My “Strawberry Pop Tart Cookies” and “Circus Animal Stuffed Sugar Cookies” don’t bring in search traffic, but they do great on social media.
I also never pass up an opportunity to make something that I want to make, even if it’s a high-volume keyword that would be challenging to rank for.
I have a killer banana bread recipe. Banana bread has a search volume of 200k with a keyword difficulty of 80%, it’s very very hard to rank for. The recipe has gone viral on Pinterest multiple times and in a years’ time, it was #7 of my top 10 recipes with 70% of the traffic coming from Pinterest.
Pinterest analytics are not available for the life of the pin, but in the last 180 days, it’s had over a million impressions.
I have never spent time on link building, but I had the opportunity to work with major brands and corporations years ago, which helped establish some of my domain authority. I do not actively work on link building outside of submitting individual blog posts for recipe roundups.
In the past, I’ve collaborated with the Wilton Team and traveled to their headquarters to learn more about their product launches and check out their behind-the-scenes operations.
At the time, I was also contributing to the Better Homes and Gardens blog. This landed me an opportunity to participate in a Sweet 16 Baking Challenge, and I was a finalist.
I traveled to the Better Homes and Gardens headquarters, where the final 4 incredibly talented bakers (Jocelyn from Grandbaby Cakes, Amanda from I Am Baker, and Aimee Shugary Sweets) went head-to-head in the test kitchens and the staff voted on our recipes to determine a winner. It was a pretty incredible opportunity.
I have another long-time client, the American Dairy Association (who I still work with going on 7 years now), which began after they invited me to tour dairy farms and learn about dairy production in Ohio.
Walkers Shortbread is another company that I’ve worked with on and off over the past several years, as well as companies local to Oregon: Oregon Berries and Bob’s Red Mill.
A few years ago, I started working with Dash Brand Management. They represent me and handle all the conversations and negotiations with my current partnerships, which is a mix of brands that reach out to me and also brands they pitch on my behalf.
This has led to deals with major retailers like Kroger and Safeway. Pitching brands was never a strength of mine, and in the past most opportunities came my way via social media or brands and PR firms reaching out to me, so to have Dash handle this for me has been a huge weight off my shoulders,
Julianne’s Content Creation Process
I have 900 articles published on my site, and I’ve deleted over 100 articles and recipes that I would consider thin or old content that does not serve my site anymore.
Over the last couple of years, time for work has been extremely limited. As a full-time mom, I fit work in where I can.
This past year I shifted from publishing two new recipes per week to posting one new recipe a week and updating one old post. Or sometimes I go several weeks simply republishing and improving old content.
I have also been reshooting and adding process shots to older recipes. There is a lot of value in older posts that just need a bit of a facelift, and I’ve seen that payoff this year.
Her Email List
Back in 2019, one the things I chose to focus on was growing my email list.
I work with Matt Molen on his Email on Autopilot course. Matt helped to get me set up on ConvertKit and his approach to email is very approachable and easy to execute.
I’ve been running the same lead magnet for a number of years on my site, but it’s one area we’re looking to grow in 2024, and I’m getting ready to launch some new ones in Q4 as well.
I will also look to push my email signups on my social media sites, which I have not done previously.
Right now, I’ve edited my list down to 35k subscribers and I’m working to keep only active subscribers, so I delete users frequently to keep the numbers lower. Email currently only accounts for about 2% of my traffic.
Her Favorite Tools
My favorite tool is artificial light.
For years I told myself I needed more flexibility when it came to shooting pictures. I finally learned a little bit more this last year and it’s a game changer for me.
The winters are long and dark in the Pacific Northwest, so having the ability to still produce quality photos, at any time of day, has put less pressure on me to shoot only on sunny days.
Plus, with my kids, it’s become harder to find the time to shoot. I can shoot process shots in the morning and then the heroes in the afternoon, but still have consistent lighting.
I am now shooting using a flash, whereas before I was dependent on natural light.
As for keyword research tools, I use both Semrush and KeySearch to help look at keyword ideas and to see how things are performing.
I also use SmarterQueue. I was a little late to the game here, but I find it to be an amazing tool for scheduling and also finding content to share on Facebook from other bloggers.
It was at one point a great tool for scheduling Facebook content, but I have since reverted back to Meta Business Suites because Facebook seems to prefer that you use their scheduling tools. I do however still use it for Instagram and I love it.
My Facebook page fluctuates: when things are good, they’re good, but when they’re dead, it’s difficult.
I get a good amount of traffic from other bloggers who share my content and I’ve had several reels go viral on Facebook several times, including my Vanilla Frosting, Sugar Cookie Icing, and Fruity Pebble Whipped Cream.
Julianne’s Biggest Challenge
I would say Google is my biggest challenge. Can they just make up their mind already? Kidding, kind of.
It’s probably a lack of time. I spent 7 years only being able to put in half the effort.
In transitioning to full-time blogging, I only had 6 months of time where I was truly full-time, and during that period I was also pregnant. I am constantly feeling behind or slow to get started on new opportunities that come up simply because I don’t have the bandwidth.
I think this is a common problem no matter how much time you have to dedicate to a business because the to-do list never gets shorter.
Without a doubt, I would not have the growth that I’ve had without the team I have helping me. Over the years I’ve invested in and have hired multiple people who’ve helped me sustain my business.
Everything from my SEO team, who writes and updates content, to independent photographers, and virtual assistants, and I most recently hired a social media manager which I am really excited about.
I don’t do this alone and there’s no way I could.
Her Greatest Accomplishment
I would say publishing my cookbook and going to QVC were the two biggest highlights that come to mind.
I was working full-time when I wrote my cookbook and I basically had to put my blog aside for almost a year to dedicate the time to the book, but I am really proud of what I did.
The other one is when I finally hit over a million pageviews. That number has always eluded me and when I finally hit it, I just wanted to celebrate it.
What She Wishes She Knew When She Started
First of all, I would not have written about what was happening on The Real Housewives or The Bachelor that week because 12 years later, it means nothing!
Be open and adaptable to change. The one constant thing in this line of work is change, and you have to be open to adapting.
I still have to remind myself of this all the time.
Her Biggest Mistake
I would say this still holds true today, but I do believe you need to find ways to diversify.
It’s something I think about every day, and to be honest, I am terrible at it. I am a creature of habit and tend to stick with what I know and do best. This has caused me to miss out on opportunities or to adapt quicker.
I was late to the game to jump on Reels, for instance. When I started making them, I instantly saw amazing growth on Instagram, which had been stagnant.
In 2021, I netted only 8,408 followers and traffic from Instagram was 5% of my referral traffic for the year. I posted a few reels in Q4 of 2021 and then really focused on it in 2022.
In the first 6 months of 2022, I netted 29k followers and, by the end of the year, 40k followers. Instagram still made up for 5% of my referral traffic, but I grew traffic from Instagram by 55%.
I can only imagine if I had gotten in earlier, how this would have made a difference. I also had a small performance bonus from Facebook, which again I could have maybe capitalized on earlier if I had jumped on it earlier.
Her Advice for Other Entrepreneurs
I would say that you just can’t expect to be able to do everything. Find the things that bring you the most joy and seek help to execute on the things that don’t.
Also people used to tell me that once I left my job and could dedicate myself to my blog that I would see a lot of growth. It’s absolutely true, but don’t expect to see that success overnight, especially when you get hit with an algorithm update the following week!
So if you’re reading this wondering if you should leave your full-time job, I would say that there are a lot of factors involved, including making sure financially that you can do it, whatever that means for you.